Word War: Different From vs Different Than

When you want to express the difference between two objects, do you say different from or different than? This one is also rather tricky like the pair we discussed yesterday. One cause of confusion is the word itself: different. It is an adjective that compares two or more objects, but it is not a comparative adjective. As a result, among some stylists, you’ll find a distinct divide for the expressions “different from” and “different than.” So which one is correct and which one should we use?

The expression different from is normally followed by a noun, a pronoun, or a noun equivalent (gerund, noun phrase, etc.): “This book seems different from mine,” “They got me something different from the one I wanted,” “Working abroad is totally different from working here,” and “What I they gave me was different from what they promised.” In the above examples, the expression “different from” are followed by a pronoun (mine and what), a noun equivalent (working [gerund]), noun phrase (the one I wanted).

We use different than when we want to use a clause after the expression. For example, “My birthday this year was different than it was last year,” “This event is totally different than it was advertised,” “The weather yesterday was different than I expected it to be.” In the preceding examples, the expression different than is directly followed by the subject and the verb of the clause.

To summarize, the difference between the two expressions is this: different from typically requires a noun or noun equivalent to complete the expression, while different than may be followed by a clause. Let’s compare a few examples.

The weather is different from what I expected is to be.
The weather is different than I expected it to be.

In the first example, we used different from because the expression is directly followed by the pronoun what. Even when there is a clause after the expression, the clause does not directly follow the expression unlike the second example, thus, we used different than.

So which one is more appropriate? It really depends on your style and preference. Ordinarily, different from is preferred by most people. At the same time, the key is consistency. Choose which expression to use, and use it consistently in your writing or speech.


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